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Tim Thomas starts in goal at Garden for Panthers

 Former teammates Tuukka Rask (left) and Tim Thomas had a pregame chat near center ice before Tuesday night’s Bruins-Panthers game at TD Garden. (Globe Staff Photo/Jim Davis)

Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Former teammates Tuukka Rask (left) and Tim Thomas had a pregame chat near center ice before Tuesday night’s Bruins-Panthers game at TD Garden.

During the Florida Panthers’ first visit to TD Garden this season, Nov. 7, Tim Thomas was unavailable because of a groin injury.

This time, Thomas was healthy enough to be in the net.

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On Tuesday night, the ex-Bruin made his first start at the Garden since his departure from Boston following the 2011-12 season.

Thomas (14-14-3, 2.65 GAA, .915 save percentage), wearing No. 34 instead of the No. 30 he made famous as a Bruin, greeted former teammate Tuukka Rask at the red line during pregame warmups. During pregame introductions, Thomas received a good hand when his name was announced.

Thomas made his first save on Loui Eriksson at 0:37 of the first period. Thomas held the Bruins off the board until Milan Lucic beat him on a rebound at 7:41 of the first.

Aside from his injuries, the former Bruin has been very good for the down-and-out Panthers. Thomas, 39, whose presence on the team has allowed prospect Jacob Markstrom to develop in the AHL, was coming off a 26-save performance in a 5-4 shootout win over Detroit Sunday.

“He gives our young guys a lot of confidence,” Florida coach Peter Horachek told the Miami Herald. “When there’s breakdowns, he makes big plays. He scrambles and is competitive. He has a smile on his face when he makes those big saves. It allows guys to settle down.”

Thomas also has a no-trade clause in his contract, which he may exercise prior to the NHL trading deadline. Thomas will be an unrestricted free agent at year’s end and has not declared his future plans.need

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.
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